FINA Communication Department

An array of open water swimmers (43 women, and 72 men), several of them Olympic and/or World champions battled for glory today (Saturday March 17) at the FINA/HOSA Marathon Swim World Series in Doha, Qatar.

Olympic champions from Rio 2016 Olympic Games Sharon Van Rouwendaal and Ferry Weertman (NED) confirmed their dominance of the discipline today in their respective tough races.

WOMEN

“The World Series is about putting new tactics into practice” - Van Rouwendaal

The women’s race started this morning at 8:30 with uncertain conditions. A light wind was up and a slight fog made the visibility more difficult. However half way through the race the sun came out and the temperature went up.

Greece’s Kalliopi Araouzou, the bright pink cap, started the race on a high and led the pack until the fourth lap. She was followed by China and Germany for most of the beginning of the race. Araouzou however finished 25th in 2h03m29s20.

A lot of energy was coming out of the pack after the third lap as Ana Marcela Cunha of Brazil, multiple-time winner of the Marathon Swim World Series and 25km current World champion, came back to the front of the group. The Brazilian took the lead with the Germans by her side but towards the end of lap 4, Germany was in front again.

The speed really started to pick up towards the end of the race when the German swimmers Leonie Beck and Finnia Wunman clearly showed their intention to keep their best pace within the frontrunners.

While most swimmers skipped the last feed opportunity at the pontoon, where they can refuel with energy gel and cooling water, the real sprint was visible in the last 19-20 minutes of the race.

In the last straight line, Van Rouwendaal distanced herself from the pack to swim clear with the definitive intention to grab a medal. At the last buoye, Van Rouwendaal gave all she had and clinched the gold after 2h02m24s4 of incredible effort in the water. Right behind her for silver was Leonie Beck (2h02m25s2) and Finnia Wunman for bronze (2h02m26s7).

A very happy and smiling Van Rouwendaal commented after her race:

“I feel very good. This is like my best race ever… apart from the Olympics. I was really relaxed during the race. I started behind and at each turn I tried to win a few places and at the end I just kept calm. I tried to sprint the last 600m.”

“Normally I am in front right from the start but at the World Series I am trying to learn new tactics. I can see that this was my best tactic ever.”

Leonie Beck (GER), silver, said:

“I am feeling very good. I did not expect to do so well. When the Italians stopped I didn’t expect it so I though “ok well I’ll just go in front”.”

Finnia Wunman (GER), bronze, said:

“It was a really tough race. It was really fast at the beginning but I did my best. I am very happy that I took the third place. My tactics were to swim in the front and go with the pace. My training camp helped with my form today I think. I am so happy that two German swimmers took a medal today.”

Ana Marcela Cunha (BRA), 4th, said:

“It was such a strong race. The first one of the year so the girls came here very well prepared. I am very happy with the results cause the times are good. It was a good start of the year.”

MEN

As opposed to the women’s diving start, it was a water start for the men’s race this afternoon in Doha.

Right from the beginning Logan Fontaine, 19 in a few days, from France, took the lead together with teammate David Aubry, 21. We could observe a V-shape formation behind the two French leaders which is a sign that the pace is steady.

But half way through the first lap, seven swimmers were side by side in the front to form a spectacular group of frontrunners. 

Just like in the women’s race, Germany showed great form today. Marcus Herwig started to take the lead and distance himself from the pack. He swam on the left hand side of this huge group of athletes, which included 15 French swimmers, all standing out with their bright blue cap.

In the middle of the referee whistling the whistle to try and make the swimmers move apart, we could already see four swimmers well in front of the pack at the end of lap 1.

At the start of lap 2, Hungary’s Kristof Rasovszky went off and started leading, leaving Fontaine fighting behind him, who, half way through the second lap was again on his own towards the front-left hand side, away from the pack, hoping for a better line. Germany’s number 43 Marcus Herwig, 22, was leading at this point.

Brazil’s Diogo Villarinho took the early lead of lap 3, which the referee had to watch very carefully as the pack was starting to spread out. Last year’s overall winner Simone Ruffini of Italy was then 7th in a very controlled pace.

We could also see Olympic champion Weertman slowly but surely making his way from the back of the pack to the middle. His teammate Marcel Schouten was still one of the first ones in turns with Fontaine. Fontaine ended up finishing 9th today in 1h52m48s90.

Aubry got back to the front in the fourth lap, when swimmers normally adjust their position for the rest of the competition and were the gaps in-between the group increase.

At this point, we also could see Jack Brunell (GBR), Mario Sanzullo (ITA) and Kristof Rasovszky (HUN) making their way to the front.

In a stunning sprint 100m away from the turning bouye during the fifth lap, traditional indoor pool swimmer and 1500m Olympic and World champion Gregorio Paltrinieri of Italy took the lead for the first time of the race. He suddenly was side by side with very experienced Alex Reymond of France.

The sixth and final lap saw Weertman coming back faster than ever to touch home first, closely followed by Aubry (1h52m42s5) and Ruffini (1h52m24s7) who completed the podium today in Doha.

Still out of breath, gold medallist Weertman, said:

“This is my first win in the World Series! I am very happy about that! I have won some other races but it is nice to be this good that early in the season.”

“I felt strong in the fourth lap, so I overtook in the front and immediately I saw Reymond coming. He is a very good 25km swimmer so I knew he was going to keep up the pace and I knew I had to stay on his feet. I could do that for a very long time. I also saw Paltrinieri come next to me and I know he’s the fastest man in the 1500m but I had to stay with him because I know I have a good sprint.”

“When I heard that it was in Doha, I thought it would be really hot but it was not. It was okay, so the air temperature didn’t really matter that much.”

David Aubry (FRA), silver, said:

“The is the first World Series of the year. My experience is good but the race was very difficult for me and the finish was so/so.”

“Doha is beautiful, and I loved the race”

Simon Ruffini (ITA), bronze, said:

“For me it was a really good race because during this period I had some problems, today was a good day for the race.”

Doha was the first of nine legs to be held across the world. The second stage of the Series is on May 20 in the Seychelles, which is the other new host of the 2018 circuit. CALENDAR 

Marathon swimming action can be followed on FINAtv live or on demand.